Merkel and the Twilight of Meaning

Leonard K. writes:

Angela Merkel made a splash with her anti-immigration speech. But does she really mean it? How can she reconcile her own statements:

“We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don’t accept them don’t have a place here,” said the chancellor.

Merkel said “Islam is part of Germany”, echoing the recent comments of Wulff, a liberal voice in the party.

LA replies:

You’ve captured in a nutshell the reason I’ve been unable to get my head around this story and have put off commenting on it before now, though many readers have sent me articles about it over the last three days. The flat-out contradictions among Merkel’s various statements, particularly between her strongest “conservative” statement, that people who don’t share Germany’s Christian values have no place in Germany, and her strongest “liberal” statement, that “Islam is a part of Germany,” render each and all of her statements meaningless, and thus paralyze the mind of a reader of normal intelligence trying to understand what she is saying.

By the way, how would one translate “the Twilight of Meaning” into German? Die Sinnesdämmerung?

- end of initial entry -

Alexis Zarkov writes:

Merkel evidently distinguishes between Muslims who immigrate to Germany who don’t speak German, and the German-speaking Muslims who live in Germany. Her “Islam is part of Germany” statement is meant to reassure current Muslim residents that her government won’t deport them as part of a religious cleansing operation. Nevertheless there does seem to be two contradictory threads running through her speech. For example she says, “According to the head of the German chamber of commerce and industry, Hans Heinrich Driftmann, Germany is in urgent need of about 400,000 engineers and qualified workers, whose lack is knocking about one percent off the country’s growth rate.” Where are these tech workers supposed to come from? Not India or China because few there speak German. Not the Arab countries because they don’t speak German, and who are generally not well educated.The Swiss would have such people, but they are not inclined to leave Switzerland. The whole speech has a weirdness to it. Perhaps there is a problem in translation. Perhaps she’s trying to placate two groups: the right and the industrialists.

October 19

Donald M. writes:

“Multi-kulti” in Germany refers to language diversity, not religious or ethnic diversity. That is the key to understanding Merkel. Don

LA replies:

Got it. Let the Muslims take over, so long as they speak German. Thanks for this clarification which resolves the contradiction between her statements.

But wait. The key doesn’t resolve the contradiction after all, because it doesn’t take care of her statement:

“We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don’t accept them don’t have a place here.”

That is an entire culture, ethos, and way of being she is talking about—not just language. By definition, Muslims don’t have Christian values. Therefore Muslims don’t have a place in Germany. But Merkel has also said the exact opposite, that Islam is welcome in Germany and will keep expanding in Germany and that everyone must accept this.

So it looks as though I’m still wandering about in Merkel’s Twilight of Meaning. It’s Austerwanderung in die Sinnesdämmerung.

Henning Gloege writes:

Dear sir,

As a regular reader of your site, I rarely have reason to comment, since I find myself in agreement much of the time. Incidentally, I wish to congratulate you on the quality of your site.

As a German, I thought I might be able to elucidate the apparent dichotomy of the chancellor’s statements regarding Islam. Merkel is head of the supposedly conservative CDU. Yet ever since taking over party leadership she has steered the party sharply towards the left in a transparent ploy to rob the left’s votes, all while taking the party’s core conservative base for granted. Over the last few months, after a rash of resignations of the last few remaining stand-out conservative torchbearers in the party, there has been an increasingly vocal movement within the party and outside of it, clamoring for either a return of the CDU to its conservative roots, or the establishment of a new right-of-center party. The latter in particular, since the publication of Thilo Sarrazin’s book. A result of which has been opinion polls indicating support of up to 25 percent for such a new party. Sharply declining polls for the CDU are the logical result of this. It is in light of this (the growing inner party revolt, as well as the danger of a new party) that the chancellor has made this uncharacteristically unambiguous statement regarding Christian values, as well as the statement regarding the failure of the multicultural experiment. There are NO indications at all that there is an actual shift in policy coming, or that this is anything other than rhetoric for the pacification of the party’s conservative base and the electorate’s blindingly obvious desire for an actual conservative alternative. In other words, Merkel is playing politics of convenience with zero substance behind it. If nothing else, she is an astute politician, who could not have failed to notice that the mood of the electorate has turned decidedly critical of unbridled Third World and/or Islamic immigration. All while the political establishment (ALL the five parties in parliament) as well as the entire media establishment are rabidly pro-immigration.

I hope this helps to explain the chancellor’s statements.


Henning Gloege

LA replies:

Thank you very much for this. Merkel’s senselessness now makes complete sense.

And by the way, is my coinage, die Sinnesdämmerung, reasonably sensible and grammatical? I tried to use the genitive ending for the masculine noun der Sinn.

Henning Gloege replies:

I suppose it is completely grammatically correct. Anything where you could say, as in this case “die Dämmerung des Sinnes” would be the correct application of the genitive. In this particular case, I might have used—sticking to your particular wording now—Sinndämmerung, since you are referring to the meaning of what Merkel said (as meaningless as it obviously is), as opposed to referring to her senses (again, as little as she may have those). Either way, however, your meaning is quite understandable.

Leonard K. writes:

Mr. Henning Gloege wrote:

” … Merkel is playing politics of convenience with zero substance behind it.”

This confirms my rhetorical question in the subject of this e-mail.

I have another one: Does she think the Germans are this stupid?

BTW, congratulations on your A in German!

LA replies:

Based on a year of college German.

And have you noticed how the entire U.S. conservative blogosphere has jumped enthusiastically on her statement, as though it indicated some radical switch in German policy, when her contradictory statements should indicate to them that it’s nothing of the kind?

Jake F. writes:

Mr. Auster,

I nearly snarfled my coffee when I read “Austerwanderung in die Sinnesdämmerung.” The suicide of a Western European country after its invasion by a hostile power isn’t supposed to be funny, is it?

James P. writes:

You wrote:

“have you noticed how the entire U.S. conservative blogosphere has jumped enthusiastically on her statement, as though it indicated some radical switch in German policy, when her contradictory statements should indicate to them that it’s nothing of the kind?”

Just imagine how the US conservative blogosphere would react if an American national politician said something similar. When was the last time an American politician said “all Americans should speak clear, accentless English, and our policy of tolerating non-English speakers in this country is a failure”? In their refusal to accept linguistic diversity, the Germans are more conservative now than the Americans!

LA replies:

Yes, her statement does have a positive significance in this respect: that it shows that there is an anti-Islamization and anti-Third Worldization public sentiment in Germany which is so strong that she feels she must appeal to it. That is a very good sign. However, my focus has been on what she herself means by her anti-Islamization remarks. And the spectacular contradictions between her various statements clearly show that she doesn’t mean anything by them, but is only trying to curry favor with a certain sector of the populace. But since all her favor-currying remarks are totally contradicted by the opposite remarks, the favor currying can’t go anywhere and will soon break down.

James P. writes:

Yup. Much like McCain’s recent posturing about border security to curry favor with a certain sector of the Arizona electorate. His remarks will have no practical effect, have been contradicted by many past statements, and will no doubt be contradicted by many future statements (starting around, oh, November 3 or so).

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 18, 2010 06:15 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):